Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2018

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Where I Stand:

Author’s note offers more than just an inspiring message

What are the odds for this unlikely event?

There are a few things I still remember from my daughter, Amy’s, growing-up years. One is the name of one of her favorite authors — Judy Blume.

Blume’s writing — mostly books for young girls trying to figure out life — has graced the lives of at least three generations of young people since she started writing a half-century ago. She has awards to throw at the birds, a bit of controversy along the way and the satisfaction of knowing many thousands of young kids still enjoy her books.

How do I know that?

Because my precious, brilliant and beautiful little granddaughter told me so. As best as I can tell, 7-year-old Julia has read every one of Blume’s books that are age-appropriate or near age-appropriate. That is my way of telling you she has been reading for a long time!

She enjoyed the books so much that she told her mother she wanted to write to Ms. Blume to thank her for providing such wonderful stories. Thinking it would be a nice learning experience, Julia’s mother helped her find an address and, I assume, a stamp.

And that was almost the end of the story. A month later, Julia received a hand-written letter from Blume thanking her for writing and reading and encouraging my little granddaughter to pursue the career she wanted — which at the moment is to be a writer. Oh, happy day!

These are the kinds of stories that can be life-changing, so when people of great renown and accomplishment take the time to inspire our children to read more or, perhaps, to even become a writer themselves one day, that is a big deal. I even considered writing Judy myself to thank her for being so kind. I should have. So Judy Blume, thank you.

And that should be the end of the story. But it isn’t, so here is the incredible part.

Blume in May published her first “grown-up” novel in 17 years. That is around the time Julia wrote her letter. The book is titled “In the Unlikely Event” and is set in the 1950s in Elizabeth, N.J. I have not yet read the book.

In fact, until this past week I didn’t know the book had been published. I received an email with three pages from the book, 360-362, attached with the note from the sender to read the pages carefully.

I read them.

In this book of fiction about a young woman trying to find meaning in her life, there comes a time when she is on a plane from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. While on board, the “stewardess handed out copies of the Las Vegas Sun.”

The young woman, Miri, thumbed through the newspaper and “stopped when she came to an intriguing headline: ‘McCarthy Loses Face in Verbal Fire.’”

The news story, which is nonfiction, is about Sen. Joe McCarthy’s trip to Las Vegas and my father, Hank Greenspun, who rushed the stage where the McCarthy was spewing his vicious lies to challenge him to debate the vile charges of communist subversion. The news story ended saying, “McCarthy turned and ran like a scared rabbit.”

A Judy Blume work of fiction is probably the last place where I would have expected to see a factual account of a significant moment in American political history. It happened well before the George Clooney character in “Good Night and Good Luck,” Edward R. Murrow, courageously and similarly attacked McCarthy, the red-baiting U.S. senator. And it was the beginning of the end of the demagogue from Wisconsin.

But, while it is really cool to have Blume give credit to my father like that, that isn’t the incredible part of the story.

While Blume was putting the finishing touches on her soon-to-be-released book this year, a 7-year-old child was writing a thank-you letter. That little girl is the great-granddaughter of the man the author somehow decided to honor for his courage in the first novel she wrote in almost two decades.

That is much more than coincidence, if you ask me.

And, if you asked how that could happen, I could only answer this way.

I once asked my father how he escaped the inescapable and survived the unsurvivable throughout his life. He smiled and, as he looked skyward, said someone must be looking out for him.

Call me crazy, but I think that someone (as I look skyward) is sending little Julia a warm and loving message.

Brian Greenspun is owner, publisher and editor of the Sun.

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